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Development of White-tailed Deer Genetic Database for the Forensic Identification of Poached Samples

Award Information

Award #
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Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $50,000)

As submitted by the proposer: Poaching of white-tailed deer (Odocoilieus virginianus) is a massive problem that is currently being faced by West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Law Enforcement. While authorities may not witness the poaching event, collecting biological evidence including hair, blood, and other tissue that may be produced during the crime can be used to match the identity of an individual white-tailed deer through genetic analysis, as well as genetically designate individuals to geographic regions. However, there is currently no genetic database of white-tailed deer in the state of West Virginia to geographically assign white-tailed deer to through genetics. Additionally, while biological evidence may be discovered and collected at a crime scene, it is often found in low quantities and can be degraded by environmental conditions, making genetic analysis more difficult and time consuming, therefore delaying the prosecution or exoneration process. The objectives of this project are to 1) generate a mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and microsatellite genetic database in order to identify genetic neighborhoods throughout West Virginia, and 2) create a suite of microsatellite markers that reliably amplify degraded biological material. White-tailed deer tissue collection occurred in 2014 throughout the state at 18 West Virginia Department of Natural Resources Biological Check Stations. Approximately 30 tissue samples were collected from each biological station and the geographic location of the sample was determined by the hunter. From these samples, two neutral genetic markers, mtDNA and microsatellites, will be used to identify and construct genetic neighborhoods in West Virginia. To create a minimum suite of eight microsatellite DNA that reliably amplify DNA from degraded white-tailed deer, samples of blood, hair, and tissue will be taken from 16 individual white-tailed deer and will be divided into a control group and an exposure group. The exposure samples will be subjected to a 35ºC (95ºF) environment and microsatellite amplification of this group will be compared to the control samples. Dissemination of this work to wildlife biologists and other scientist research will be through publication in appropriate scientific journals as well as professional society conferences. This work will provide conservation law enforcement with an additional tool to solve wildlife crimes and create a deterrent for future violations. Additionally by developing this suite of markers, there will be greater confidence in the results from the courts and improved enforcement of the Lacey Act of 1900, which prohibits the illegal transportation, selling, or purchasing of wildlife which as illegally harvested. This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law. ca/ncf

Date Created: September 15, 2015